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The SAT and ACT process can be confusing. There's a lot of conflicting advice out there. You'll have to make a few important decisions, but most of the hype is overblown. Here are my answers to the most common test prep questions.

Should I take the SAT or the ACT? +

This decision isn't as important as you think. The colleges don't care. The SAT and ACT test most of the same topics. And most students get equivalent scores. But if you're curious, take a practice SAT and a practice ACT, then compare the scores. I encourage my students to take the SAT because I think it's a better test, but I tutor for both exams.

When should I take the SAT? +

Everyone who is considering college should take a real SAT or ACT before the end of 11th grade. No exceptions. I recommend the March SAT so that students can prepare in January and February, long before final exams. Retake the test over the summer, if needed. Most high schools offer the PSAT once or twice a year. I highly recommend that students sign up to take it.

How should I prepare for the SAT? +

Motivated students can improve their scores for under $30. Khan Academy is a great free resource. But I recommend buying The Official SAT Study Guide so you have paper versions of the practice tests.

Tutors and courses can be a great addition. I spent 10 years working for a test prep company, so I know that group courses can be effective. Now I'm a private tutor, working mostly online, and I love that I can target a student's individual weaknesses. Either way, I recommend starting test prep 2 to 3 months before test day.

How do I sign up for the test? +

What's a good score? +

The PSAT is a great opportunity to get free practice scores. Every student is different, but here's a very rough description of what the scores mean:

  • 700s - Excellent
  • 600s - Great
  • 500s - Above Average
  • 400s - Needs Work

But remember: where you finish matters much more than where you start. Practice works!


If you'd like to discuss your specific situation, you can schedule a 1-hour consultation. I have 12 years of experience working in test prep. I can help with:

  • setting a test prep schedule
  • deciding how to prep
  • interpreting practice scores
  • SAT vs. ACT
  • diagnostic testing
  • one-on-one tutoring

(can be done via webcam or over the phone)